General David Petraeus on Wednesday cruised through his US Senate confirmation as commander of the faltering Afghan campaign, amid deep political divisions over the war and fresh insurgent violence.
The Senate vote came amid a new bout of national soul-searching over the war and following a an attack on a NATO base in eastern Jalalabad by Taliban insurgents.
The 99-0 vote was a rare display of unity between US President Barack Obama’s Democratic allies and Republican foes as both sides hoped Petraeus, credited in Washington with turning the Iraq war around, could do the same in Afghanistan.
“The Senate’s quick action and General Petraeus’s unrivaled experience will ensure we do not miss a beat in our strategy to break the Taliban’s momentum and build Afghan capacity,” Obama said.
Obama named Petraeus to the post after removing General Stanley McChrystal over a bombshell magazine interview in which the commander disparaged civilian leaders in Washington and Kabul as well as US allies.
McChrystal’s stunning fall from grace came at a critical crossroads in the nearly nine-year-old war, with public support buckling and US officials acknowledging progress has been slower than expected.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the brazen daylight attack on the eastern NATO base that employed a car bomb and rocket fire.
Several assailants were killed during the assault and two military personnel were injured, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
ISAF meanwhile announced the death of its 102nd soldier this month, saying he died on Wednesday from injuries suffered in an attack in eastern Afghanistan. It did not disclose the exact location or any further details of the incident.
Hundreds of NATO and Afghan troops have been hunting insurgents in a major assault in the eastern mountains of Kunar, which neighbors Nangarhar, close to the border with Pakistan.
Petraeus, architect of the US military’s “counterinsurgency” strategy, warned anxious lawmakers on Tuesday that NATO-led forces face “tough fighting” ahead against the insurgency.
“Indeed, it may get more intense in the next few months,” said Petraeus, arguably the most revered military officer in the US.
Petraeus also warned it would take “a number of years” before Afghan security forces could take over for NATO-led troops, a step US officials have described as a precondition for a complete withdrawal.
His confirmation vote came with the US public deeply split on the war. Some polls show most Americans believe the war is not worth fighting and lawmakers are bitterly divided over Obama’s deadline to begin a US withdrawal in July next year.
“Afghanistan is not a lost cause,” said Senator John McCain, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
McCain called the task of defeating Taliban insurgents and their al-Qaeda allies “hard but not hopeless.”
Democratic Senator Russell Feingold questioned the US-led mission.
“Regardless of who is in command, the president’s current strategy in Afghanistan is counterproductive,” said Feingold, who called for a “flexible timetable” for withdrawal, “not just a start date.”
Democratic support for the conflict has ebbed so severely that Obama will need ample Republican backing to get an emergency war spending bill through the House of Representatives in a hard-fought vote expected this week.
Amid strains between military and civilian officials, Petraeus promised senators he would strive to forge “unity of effort” with US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry and White House officials and pledged to review disputed rules restricting troops’ use of firepower.
SECONDARY OBJECTIVE: One of the researchers said the discovery would not lead to a ‘complete solution’ and that plastic should not be released into the environment A bacterium that feeds on toxic plastic has been discovered by scientists. The bug not only breaks the plastic down, but uses it as food to power the process. The bacterium, which was found at a waste site where plastic had been dumped, is the first that is known to attack polyurethane. Millions of tonnes of the plastic are produced every year to use in items such as sports shoes, diapers, kitchen sponges and as foam insulation, but it is mostly sent to landfills, because it is too tough to recycle. When broken down it can release toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, which
Tokyo and the Osaka area in western Japan hunkered down yesterday as officials urged people to stay indoors to prevent a potential emergency, but some were carrying on as normal. Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s plea for the tens of millions of people in the capital and surrounding regions to avoid non-essential, non-urgent outings until April 12, and particularly this weekend, followed a surge in coronavirus infections this week that she said put Tokyo on the brink of an emergency. Koike urged people to avoid the national pastime of congregating to drink and watch cherry blossoms as they hit their peak in the
IN CUSTODY: The alleged ringleader allegedly forced victims to carve ‘slave’ into their bodies and send him degrading images that were shared with scores of others A sexual blackmail ring that operated on the app Telegram and targeted dozens of women, including underage girls, has rocked South Korea and triggered demands for authorities to crack down on the rising number of sexual offences online. Police yesterday took the unusual step of naming the man who allegedly ran an online network that lured at least 58 women and 16 girls into what authorities called “virtual enslavement” by blackmailing them into sending degrading and, in some cases, violent sexual images of themselves. Cho Ju-bin faces charges of violating the Child Protection Act, the Privacy Act and the Sexual Abuse Act,
LEGISLATION PRAISED: The southern jet stream wind system appears to have stopped moving southward and might be moving back to normal, scientists said International cooperation on ozone-depleting chemicals is helping to return the southern jet stream to a normal state after decades of disruption, a study shows. Scientists say the findings prove that there is the capacity to heal damaged climate systems if governments act promptly and in coordination to deal with the causes. The southern jet stream is a powerful wind that shapes weather patterns and ocean currents in the southern hemisphere, particularly in the summer. Up until about 2000, it had been shifting from its usual course and moving southward at a rate of 1° of latitude each decade, affecting storm tracks and rainfall